A journey in Morocco becomes a reflection on human life.


In Pasolini's Pigsty (1969) two tales set in quite different periods were intercut and told in tandem. Something similar is offered in Oliver Laxe's Mimosas although his two narratives are not given equal weight and, despite one being modern and the other ancient, they do echo each other and ultimately blend. As you might deduce from that, Mimosas is not a realistic work. If it were, its portrayal of a long trek through the Atlas Mountains in Morocco might invite comparison with the films made by Werner Herzog in South America. Instead, the journey featured here is, in effect, a symbolical one, a life journey undertaken with no certainty as to what will happen but with death its ultimate end. There's a strong spiritual sense here even if faith is open to question.


The film begins in the past as a caravan sets out to bring a sheikh and his retinue to the city of Sijilmasa. But,       even before we reach the title credit, a comparable situation sees taxis being hired to take a dying sheikh to the distant place where he would wish to be buried. It is in this modern setting that we first encounter the inexperienced Shakib (Shakib Ben Omar) whose devout attitude plays a part not only here but in the ancient tale since he puts in an appearance there too. Indeed, Shakib is a character who exists in the tradition of the holy fool and, as such, is timeless. He is viewed dubiously but not ignored by the two from the caravan who pledge to deliver the body when the sheikh dies (these roles being played by Ahmed Hammoud and Said Aagli).


It is the period tale that dominates here and it will introduce further characters, an elder and his mute daughter. Nevertheless, when action bursts out it will take place off screen so that our concentration is on the setting marvellously photographed in colour by Mauro Herce and on the way in which the uncertainties of life and the question of whether or not belief is crucial mark every step of the journey. More pared down than minimalistic, the film exists on its own terms and its pace will undoubtedly alienate some viewers. My own regret is that its conclusion when the two tales are brought even closer together leaves us without any clear sense of Laxe's ultimate purpose: what had looked to be a potential masterpiece falls away into obscurity leaving the audience to make of it what they will (some have said that a knowledge of Sufism is helpful and the film does divide into three titled chapters linked to the stations of Islamic prayer). Despite my ultimate reservations, I hail Mimosas as a highly personal and greatly accomplished work, essential viewing for filmgoers on the outlook for something outside any other cinematic experience.




Cast: Ahmed Hammoud, Shakib Ben Omar, Said Aagli.


Dir Oliver Laxe, Pro Felipe Lage Coro, Lamia Chraibi, Nadia Turincev and Julie Gayet, Screenplay Santiago Fillol and Oliver Laxe, Ph Mauro Herce, Pro Des Delphine de Casanove, Ed Cristóbal Fernández, Music Vincent Vázquez, Costumes Nadia Acimi.


Zeltun Films/La Prod/Rouge International/Studio Indie-Mubi.
96 mins. Spain/Morocco/France/Romania/Qatar. 2016. Rel: 25 August 2017. Cert. 15.